Team USA celebrates during a goalball preliminary group match against Turkey during the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 30, 2021 in Tokyo.
The last time the U.S. women’s goalball team faced Turkey at the Paralympic Games, the result was a loss in the 2016 semifinals and the end of Team USA’s gold-medal hopes.
Following a victory over Turkey on Monday, the U.S. hopes are still very much alive in Tokyo.
The Americans closed out the first part of the 2020 Paralympic tournament on Monday with a come-from-behind 4-3 victory over the reigning Paralympic champs. Team USA now heads into a quarterfinal matchup against the Russian Paralympic Committee with a 3-1 record coming out of preliminary round play. The U.S. finished second in Group D, behind Turkey by goal differential.
“It means a lot to us,” Team USA’s Eliana Mason said of defeating Turkey. “We didn’t play very well against them in 2016 or 2018 (at the world championships), so to come back and have a really tight, close game just helps us see all our hard work and growth coming onto the court.”
Goalball is a team sport for visually impaired athletes. Stationed on opposite sides of the court, teams attempt to send the ball into a goal that extends across the end line on the opponent’s side of the court. The ball has a bell inside, and due to varying levels of blindness players all wear eyeshades.
The U.S., which won a bronze medal five years ago in Rio, opened the Tokyo Games last Wednesday against Brazil in a rematch of the bronze-medal game at the 2016 Paralympics. Five of the six members on the U.S. squad were also on that team, and they kicked off the Tokyo campaign with a 6-4 victory.
“It’s to our advantage to have a good, challenging team right off the bat to really push us and help focus us,” six-time Paralympian Asya Miller said. “We’ve been waiting five years to get this party started, so that was a great way to do that. It’s kind of a relief to get that first game in and have a ‘W.’”